Merry Christmas everyone! My gift to Bleacher Report readers is offering my favorite bet on this unbelievable slate of NBA Christmas games:
The New York Knicks beat the Los Angeles Lakers 116-107 when these two teams met for the first time on Dec. 13. This time the Knicks and Lakers clash on Christmas Day at the Staples Center, with the Lakers favored by 3.5 points.
But why are the Lakers (13-14) favored by so many points over the Knicks (20-7)? Afterall, they've hardly been playing great basketball this season.
The Lakers are 5-9 against teams with winning records this season. While their fans will say that the team's poor play to start the season is because of injuries, the Lakers still lost their first three games of the season, and this was with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash all on the floor. On the other hand, the Knicks are 4-1 on the road against teams with losing records, beating those teams by an average of 14 points.
Vegas is clearly overvaluing the Lakers again because of their recent success. Yet, if you dig deeper, the Lakers current four-game winning streak hasn't been very impressive. Two of their wins have come against two of the worst teams in the NBA, the Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards. The Lakers won those games by a combined seven points. Additionally, the Lakers muscled out a victory versus a Philadelphia 76ers team without Jrue Holiday and Andrew Bynum.
However, their overtime win over the Golden State Warriors was all everybody needed to jump back on the Lakers bandwagon. And now the Lakers are favored to beat one of the most impressive teams in the NBA this season?
Yet, doesn't anyone remember what happened the first time these two teams met less than two weeks ago? Sure, the Knicks won by "only" nine points at Madison Square Garden, but the Knicks dominated the game more than the score would indicate.
Thanks to their porous defense, the Lakers were down by as much as 26 points to the Knicks. Additionally, the Lakers made their late push after Carmelo Anthony had left the game due to an ankle injury. The Knicks were up 17 at that point, and the Knicks' shooting plummeted without Melo on the floor. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Knicks shot 61 percent while Carmelo was in the game compared to just 44.7 percent with him off the floor.
It's nice that Nash and Gasol have come back for the Lakers since that game, but they don't add much on the defensive side of the ball. In his first game back, Steve Nash made Jarrett Jack look like an All-Star. Jack scored 29 points and had 11 assists, with mostly Nash guarding him throughout the game.
Raymond Felton has been struggling for the Knicks recently, but he did have a solid first game against the Lakers. Even though he shot 9-of-26 from the field, Felton was hurt most by Carmelo's injury because he shot 2-of-10 after Melo left the game. Expect Felton to take full advantage of the terrible point guard defense by the Lakers.
However, the biggest advantage the Knicks have is Carmelo Anthony. Nobody on the Lakers can matchup with him defensively, and it definitely showed in the first game. Not only did Melo shoot 66 percent from the field, he scored 30 points in only 22 minutes. He torched the Lakers defense with his size and natural scoring ability, giving the Knicks a huge early lead.
Led by Anthony, the Knicks have also been spacing the floor extremely well this season, which gives other players better shots. Anthony's hot shooting was contagious in the first meeting, as the Knicks as a team made 22 of their first 30 shots.
The Knicks live and die by the three-pointer, and weak perimeter defense by the Lakers would do the Knicks a huge favor in their Christmas matchup. Of course, the Lakers' interior defense isn't that strong either because of Dwight Howard's health.
Also, the Knicks would love some more revenge against former coach Mike D'Antoni, especially in his team's building. The Knicks offense will have similar success against the Lakers defense, and the Lakers can't afford Kobe taking 40 shots to try and keep up with New York's firepower.
Expect the Knicks to win this game straight up, so take the points and run.